Parents welcome the arrival of baby teeth as a sign their little pride and joy is developing along normal lines. But it’s not always a comfortable process for the baby … or the parents.
Now a meta-analysis of 10 studies from eight countries concludes there are common symptoms during the time that primary teeth emerge.
These include irritation of the gums and soft tissues as well as irritability and drooling. But while these symptoms are annoying, they do not usually become serious medical problems.
In fact, researchers said fevers are usually not symptoms of teething. This key finding is important to remember because parents whose infants develop high fevers should not assume it’s related to the surfacing of baby teeth. They should seek medical care for their children.
The findings were published today in the journal Pediatrics.
Purpose of the Study
The new study defines tooth eruption as “a physiologic process in which teeth move from their development position within the alveolar bone to break the gum toward the oral cavity.”
The study reflects the fact that many health professionals believe there is an association between some symptoms and the eruption of primary teeth. Surveys with pediatricians and other child health professionals showed that these beliefs are common.
The study explains its purpose “was to answer the following … question: In children aged 0 up to 36 months, are there local or systemic signs and symptoms during the eruption of the primary teeth?”
Research was conducted in eight different countries: Australia, Brazil, Colombia, Finland, India, Israel, Senegal, and United States. The research involved analyzing papers published between 1969 and 2012.
According to the study, despite being a natural process of child development, the impact of tooth development on the overall health of children is still controversial.
The period of time when tooth eruption occurs can be frustrating and stressful for parents, the study noted, especially when it happens for the first time.
Many parents don’t know how to identify the impending arrival of a tooth and, therefore, don’t feel confident to relieve the discomfort of the child.
Reviewing the Symptoms
Paul Casamassimo, DDS, MS, and a professor of pediatric dentistry at The Ohio State University College of Dentistry, noted that the study is a systematic review.
He told Healthline the review looks “retrospectively at studies already completed, using a lens that culls out inferior studies not meeting criteria for quality and with potential bias not controlled for well.”
“So, these are the best of the best and the distillation is a good summary of what we can hold to be true,” he said.
Casamassimo said that anxious parents would be well advised to remember that teething is a normal part of early childhood.
“Teething discomfort is transient, so parents are encouraged to wait it out, take the necessary steps, and their baby will bounce back quickly,” he said.
“Each child responds to primary tooth eruption a little differently,” he said. “Be attentive to your baby for symptoms and treat them with simple remedies like cold teething rings or cold washcloths in the mouth.”
Casamassimo noted he is well aware that more serious problems can occur.
“While temperature and other systemic effects have been noted, be attentive to fevers that are high and/or persist and diarrhea, as well as failure to eat or drink,” he said.
The first two could be signs of a more serious problem and not eating or drinking might lead to dehydration, which can happen quickly in babies.
He also urged caution when considering so-called home remedies.
“I tell parents there is no truth to the home remedy recommendation that a parent fill a shot glass with bourbon, rub a little on the baby’s gums to soothe the discomfort, and then drink the rest to relax,” he said. “But I am sure some do it.”
It’s important to remember that this is a natural process.
That’s the message of Bruno Sharp, CD, DDS, MS, a fourth-generation dentist in Florida, who is celebrating his 10th year as a natural oral care provider.
In an interview with Healthline, Sharp discussed the importance of parental action.
“If you don’t have good home care, don’t brush and floss, there will be more pain,” he said. “There could be inflammation of gums as well.”
He went on to say, “Many children have rampant caries as a result of bad oral hygiene.”
Sharp is a believer in using only natural products for oral hygiene.
“Many of the products that parents are buying for their children are made with ingredients that they really shouldn’t have,” he said. “Ideally, you want to use a natural product, so you avoid the ingredients that can be harmful to your child’s health.”